People who work for us

Meet the team of people who are working day in, day out to make Engage Britain a success.

Alasdair de Costa
Senior Analyst
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I’ve worked in analytical roles at major tech companies and more recently in research at a well-known think tank. I’ve always been interested in politics and policy, because I believe they’re the best ways to materially improve all of our lives.

I joined Engage Britain because I care about making sure policies work for people, particularly those they most affect, and those often excluded from conversations about the direction of our country. It’s been fantastic to listen and learn from people all over Britain as they discuss some of the biggest challenges we face.

Binita Mehta-Parmar
Head of Partnerships
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I’ve spent a decade working in strategic communications, with a background in politics, charity governance and building non-profit start-up teams. Now, I’m leading the development of partnerships, networks and relationships for Engage Britain.

Having represented my community as a local Councillor, I sincerely believe in putting citizens and communities at the centre of compassionate and sustainable policymaking.

The prospect of helping solve the biggest challenges facing us, at a time when we really need solutions that bridge divides, sincerely excites me. I look forward to working with you to build a positive future for our country.

David Smith
Director of Finance and Operations
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I’ve spent over 15 years as a finance professional, working in a variety of different organisations in both the Public and Charity sectors. Before Engage Britain I worked at Keep Britain Tidy as their Finance Director, and before that as a senior leader within the NHS.

Our country has become increasingly divided in recent times. And disillusioned with how some of the biggest decisions are made. Decisions that directly affect our everyday lives.

I genuinely hope that Engage Britain can change this. By having meaningful conversations with people from across all areas of our country, to identify better ways of doing things that create lasting change.

Francis Elliott
Director of Advocacy
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I’ve spent more than 20 years reporting for national newspapers, giving readers a sense of what’s going on in politics.

I’m looking forward to helping Engage Britain find a new direction that brings the wisdom of the frontline to Westminster. To find solutions to our hardest problems, we need to work together.

Freya Barnes
Head of Media & Campaigns
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I’ve spent over a decade working in media and communications for the charity and public sectors, to engage journalists and the public with their vital work.

From campaigning for change for vulnerable people and families in recent roles at Action for Children and Shelter, to bringing together locals and visitors at London 2012 events, a strong belief in the importance of community bonds, service and support lies at the heart of my work.

Huge societal shifts in recent years have led to what can feel like insurmountable challenges when it comes to connecting with and understanding one another. I feel passionately about building a better Britain by setting aside judgement, reaching out and combining our different views and experiences to find real and lasting solutions to the problems we face.

Gemma McDonald
Senior Health & Care Project Manager
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I have over 20 years’ experience leading frontline teams and transformational projects across both the financial and public sector, in Healthcare and Education.

I am fuelled by a passion to help people and to make things work better, to move obstacles out of the way and keep moving forward.

Hassan Kassem
Digital Marketing Manager
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During the course of my career I’ve helped a range of organisations navigate an ever-changing digital landscape, and connect meaningfully with audiences across a variety of social media platforms.

I joined Engage Britain because I believe there’s a real need today to bring people with different viewpoints together to find common ground. Only then can we begin to find solutions to the major issues that affect us and change lives for the better.

John Hall
Strategy consultant
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I’ve spent 25 years in the world of public policy and strategy, working in government, regulation, research and consultancy.

In my three years as Strategy Director in the Department of Health, the most important lesson I learnt was how rarely we take the time to bottom out exactly what questions we should be asking.

I currently combine strategy consultancy in the UK and overseas with leading young people on expeditions to developing countries. In different ways, each has taught me how creating meaningful change always starts by understanding the very different lenses through which people look at the world. This is at the heart of Engage Britain’s approach.

Julian McCrae
Director
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I’ve spent 25 years in the world of public policy creation, including five years as Deputy Director of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, where I led the unit’s work on social mobility, welfare policies and economic growth.

Sadly, I’ve seen it fail time and time again on issues from housing to immigration. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that real ideas, important ideas, don’t start in government. They start with real people, in civic society.

I helped to set up Engage Britain because I truly believe that when we gather people from all parts of society ­– and commit to listening and learning from their experiences – we can create ideas that work and make real change.

Justina Razac
Office Manager
Justina Razac

For over 10 years I’ve worked as an administrative and operations professional within the education, charity and corporate sectors.

In that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to gain experience across a variety of roles including recruitment, developing organisational strategies, and supporting senior management.

Throughout my career I’ve seen multiple approaches to running an organisation, and I’m now using this experience to build an organisational infrastructure which gives Engage Britain the capabilities needed to achieve its mission.

I have a passion for inclusivity and diversity, and this is what attracted me to Engage Britain. I am proud to work for an organisation which seeks to involve all, and encourages collaboration.

Lovisa Möller
Head of Analysis

For many years I’ve worked on research projects for non-profits, journalist and academics. The need for policy to start with those most affected has always been close to my heart.

Before I joined Engage Britain, I led a global research and advocacy project for a human rights charity. We did our best to ensure that the ideas we took forward resonated with the people whose rights were at risk. It showed me the true potential of putting people at the heart of policymaking.

And that’s exactly why I chose to join Engage Britain. Every day I learn new things about how we can bring about conversations that bridge divides and generate new solutions.

Miriam Levin
Programme Director
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My working life has been dedicated to involving people in public policy decisions that affect their lives, shaping the places where they live, and taking action on things that matter to them.

Most recently, in Government, I’ve done this through running programmes on deliberative democracy, community organising and place-based social action.

Our country is facing massive challenges, but ordinary people are rarely given the opportunity to be part of the solution. By bringing people together, opening up conversations, and listening, I hope Engage Britain can change that ­– and change policymaking for the better.

Molly Rowan
Director of Development

I’ve spent my career in high value fundraising, engaging the generosity of philanthropists, funders and corporate partners to raise many millions of pounds for a variety of causes.

I am a passionate advocate for empowering social and community action. I believe that each of us has an active role to play in shaping our society for the better.

Patricia Garcia Gomez
Participation Officer
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I’ve spent much of my career leading groups of volunteers in efforts to advocate for the rights of at-risk and overlooked populations around the world.

I joined Engage Britain because I strongly believe that a better world is possible when we listen to those who often don’t get to be heard.

Rachel Stein
Director of Engagement and Communications
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Throughout my career, I’ve helped brands connect with their audiences through their communications. Most recently, as Executive Director at Stonewall, I’ve worked alongside different people and communities to build campaigns that improve equality and result in tangible change.

Before that I worked for Metro Bank, leading on communications that helped to turn customers into fans and advocates.

As the world around us changes, so must the way we engage and communicate with the people around us. That’s why I’m excited to be joining the Engage Britain team. I firmly believe that by putting people’s passion, enthusiasm and experience front and centre, it’s possible to tackle some of the biggest issues facing our society. And most importantly, create meaningful change.

Reza Badel
Technology Lead
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I’ve spent 15 years honing my technical skills and professional qualifications in many different industries and settings, working with teams across the world, gaining valuable experience and insights – seeing what works and what does not.

My career to date has focussed on creating solutions with technology. It’s incredibly satisfying to help solve problems and make people’s lives easier. I have a curious mind that does not shy away from the details, complexities and intricacies.

I joined Engage Britain because its purpose resonates very strongly with me. I am passionate about the use of Tech for Good and the significance of bringing people together – connecting, engaging and making lasting, positive change to address the huge national challenges we face.

Sandjea Green
Programme Director
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I have joined Engage Britain from Kensington and Chelsea Council. I led a range of community participation programmes including the Grenfell Community Recovery Programmes and Food Insecurity, which engaged local residents in decision making processes and co-designing services.

Fundamentally, I am passionate about people. My 25-year career and academic journey has focused on enabling people and communities to thrive. I’ve held leadership roles within local government, not-for-profits and my own community organisation.

As a foster carer, I support young people and communities to develop and use their agency to make positive change in their lives as well as their community.

I am excited to work with Engage Britain as I believe that effective policy reform in the UK will only happen when the British public shape it to be fit for purpose.

Stephen Armstrong
Writer
Stephen Armstrong

I’ve been a journalist for 25 years, writing socio-political features for glossy magazines and arts pieces for heavyweight newspapers. It should have been the other way around but the 90s were an unusual decade.

I’m now writing about arts for the Sunday Times, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs for Wired, scientists and clinicians for the British Medical Journal and ordinary people across the country for two major reporting projects and two minor books. I’ve found that the most interesting people in all these places have something in common – they care about problems and they come up with solutions that take my breath away. If they’re just motivated by exploiting the solutions, on the other hand, they all sound empty.

I’m working with Engage Britain because they too seem more interested in the first group than the second – and imagine what we could do if we all thought that way.

Tara Bradberry
Head of Digital
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Before starting at Engage Britain, most of my 20 year career was spent in product management and digital leadership roles in commercial tech. I’m passionate about using technology for purposes of positive social change.

The challenge of bringing people together digitally to have meaningful conversations is one of the things that attracted me to Engage Britain. Another is the people-centred approach at the core of what we do.

As an advocate of human centred design and agile methodologies, I truly believe that the only way to solve a problem is by talking to the people who experience it.

 

Tim Connor
Digital Content Editor
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I’ve spent the past fifteen years creating campaigns for charities, retailers and artists that change people’s behaviour.

This includes raising money for Crisis, Breast Cancer Now and the RNLI, looking after IKEA’s customer database across Europe and launching a digital start-up promoting West End theatre.

I owe my career to Steve Harrison’s biography of Howard Gossage. A little-known titan of the advertising world, Gossage believed the persuasive powers of commercial communications could be used for good.

Content can do much more than just spread the word. It can help people connect with each other. That’s what excites me about Engage Britain. Because content drives conversations. And conversations drive social change.

Toni Brunton-Douglas
Analyst
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I’ve worked as a researcher in universities and think tanks for the past five years, on topics including climate change, immigration law, domestic violence, and radicalisation.

I chose each of these roles hoping that the research I have done will have a positive impact on the people who are most affected by these issues.

At Engage Britain, I have the opportunity to amplify the voices of those most impacted by the policy areas we research and make a real change to their lives.

Tony McKenzie
Reconnection Tour Manager
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My working life has been committed to working within the public and charity sectors with a focus on community engagement, homelessness, and youth work.

Before joining Engage Britain, I worked at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as their Senior Participation Officer, at Crisis UK as their Member Involvement Co-ordinator, Housing and Homelessness Officer at Hackney Council, and as a freelance consultant, facilitator, and trainer.

I am passionate about developing policy solutions alongside the people most affected by them. I firmly believe that our best policies are created when we have the right people meaningfully involved in decision-making; working in harmony to co-produce polices that benefit individuals and society.

People who work with us

Meet our trustees and advisory network members who are contributing their knowledge and experience to help us get this right.

Adam Hawksbee
Trustee
Adam Hawksbee

I’ve spent my career trying to empower people and communities. In my current job I do that through policy and politics as Deputy Director at the think tank Onward.

I lead our work on strengthening local economies, producing research papers and advising national and local government. In the past I’ve focussed on creating stronger cities, as Head of Policy at the West Midlands Combined Authority and a Research Fellow at the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative in the US.

I’ve learnt that long standing policy problems have tricky trade-offs at their heart, and they can’t be resolved without bringing in the public. The methods we currently use to consult communities are completely insufficient, so I’m fascinated by new and innovative ways to empower the public to lead the conversation.

I’m delighted to be part of Engage Britain, who are at the cutting edge of developing and spreading new approaches.

Anna Hiley
Advisory network member
Anna Hiley

I’m the founding GP and CEO of Inclusion Healthcare, a not-for-profit NHS healthcare provider for homeless people, asylum seekers and those in secure environments; vulnerable groups that don’t fit the system’s model.

I grew up in Surrey, took a gap year before medical school and visited a mission hospital in Tanzania, an experience that taught me the futility of parachuting in community saviours.

I trained as a GP and was drawn to working on the edges of society, delivering care in the back room of a homeless night shelter. We overcame the inequality of this meagre offer and have now established a number of high-quality services to meet the needs of excluded populations.

Homeless street medicine taught me that lasting change doesn’t happen when you only respond to crisis. Long-term solutions happen through years of working with people, sticking by them and helping them chose better futures.

Clare Wightman
Advisory network member
Clare Wightman

I’m the CEO of Grapevine Coventry and Warwickshire. We work with all sorts of people experiencing isolation and exclusion through disability, poverty or anything else.

There’s no change without a bit of tension but all along the golden rule has been: “Never do for others what they can do for themselves. Help strengthen their voices.”

We believe people and communities should be in charge of improving their lives. Services can’t always be there, but other people can – so we help develop strong relationship networks. If people’s strengths and aspirations are recognised and trusted, they can realise their potential, take opportunities and deal with challenges.

I’m interested in Engage Britain to see how we can take what we’ve learned locally and for it to have some kind of national impact. National change is usually in a top-down space – Engage Britain feels like a bottom-up space.

Danny Flynn
Advisory network member
Danny Flynn

I’m the Chief Executive of YMCA North Staffordshire. Over the last 15 years, I’ve steered the charity from a hostel to a multi-service youth campus helping hundreds of thousands of young people into homes, education and jobs.

I started work as a diesel-fitter in a Stoke garage, went back to college to take A levels then moved to London to work as a community service volunteer at a day centre for homeless people. I’ve worked in the charity sector ever since.

I don’t like thinking of the YMCA’s young people as a ‘homeless problem’. It’s about seeing them as assets to a community – building on what’s strong not what’s wrong. The majority of his kids are in work or studying for degrees. It’s about building relationships, unlocking passion and talent.

Jerome Harvey-Agyei
Advisory network member
Jerome Harvey

I’m senior Children and Youth Participation Officer at the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit.

 

As a care leaver myself, I co-founded the Tope Project to help young care leavers struggling with isolation. Named after a close friend and fellow care leaver who killed himself just before Christmas, the project helps support care leavers at the festive season.

I see the care system struggling under difficult pressures and believe there’s too much luck involved in young people finding loving homes and support staff.

I believe young people of every background should have a voice and some control over their own lives. I’m actively involved in the music industry which helps me inspire young people. Creativity is the hook – but empowerment is the message underneath it.

Jon Clemo
Advisory network member
Jon Clemo

I’ve been working in the voluntary sector for 16 years, starting out doing practical stuff in communities, helping people and groups devise responses to issues that are important to them, from poverty and employment to access to services.

 

I’ve taken the lessons learned there and applied them to my strategic role – working with health and social care to help services meet the needs of real people, linking activity across different services to help meet the individual’s complete needs from housing and health to food and friendship.

I recognise that grassroots involvement is crucial to success. But I know that the bigger things become, the harder it is to make the relationships work. I’ve experienced taking grassroots insight to the scale, complexity and politics of the local system level. The bit that intrigues me about Engage Britain is how do we make that work on a national level?

Joshua Simons
Trustee
Joshua Simons

My career has been about connecting public policy, technology, and democratic reform. In academia, I am a Research Fellow in Technology and Democracy at Harvard University.

My career has been about connecting public policy, technology, and democratic reform. In academia, I am a Research Fellow in Technology and Democracy at Harvard University.

My first book, Algorithms for the People: Democracy in the Age of AI, will be published by Princeton University Press this year, based on my PhD which won an American Political Science Association prize.

I am also the founder and a trustee of the Civic Power Fund, Britain’s first charitable fund to support organising in communities where it’s needed most, and a trustee of the New Economics Foundation.

I previously worked as a US-India Technology Policy Fellow at New America, a Researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Researcher, and a Policy Advisor for the Labour Party in Parliament.

I want to bring these different interests and experiences together at Engage Britain, to develop new tools and strategies of public engagement and to connect us with an emerging global community of practitioners, academics, and organisers.

Katherine Nissen
Advisory network member
Katherine-Nissen

I’m the Chief Executive of Cornwall Rural Community Charity (CCRC), which supports and strengthens Cornwall’s communities. The charity has four key areas of focus: skills and training, care, money and community from younger to older members of the community.

 

Born and bred in Cornwall I’ve lived in rural communities for most of my life, working as a teacher, a University lecturer and as an Early Help Locality Team Manager within children and family services for Cornwall Council.

Working with partners, collaborators and local communities, I believe a community’s strengths lie within its people and CRCC has the exceptional staff and knowhow to respond to emerging needs within the diverse communities of Cornwall.

Lauri McCusker
Advisory network member
Lauri McCusker

I’m the director of the Fermanagh Trust – a community organization founded to support community development and break down tension between communities in Northern Ireland. I grew up in Enniskillen and remember the dark days of the bombs and the shootings.

I studied in Coventry and earned a green card working in California, but came home when the peace process was starting, to try and make a positive contribution to my community including devising a radical Shared Education strategy. Small schools shared specialised teaching if both communities were in the class. The effect on community relationships was dramatic. It’s hard to scream at each other in the street if you’re picking your kids up from the same school gate.

The Northern Ireland Executive learnt from this and introduced the Shared Education Act in 2016. UNICEF Macedonia borrowed the model and now it’s rolling out across the world.

Malcolm Walker
Advisory network member
Malcolm Walker

I was born on a Hartlepool council estate, left school at 16 for the steelworks, but – like thousands – was made redundant in 1979. I started doing voluntary youth work, got involved in my community and realised we could act together to make a difference.

 

I’ve worked, studied and taught community development across the North East ever since – including CEO of a resident-led £54m regeneration programme in Hartlepool. I retired two years ago and now chair a charity involved in community-led housing – building houses for people in need, supporting young care leavers, providing construction training for young people, and bringing empty buildings back into use.

I also support other community projects, like the Belle Vue Centre, a great project started by local residents’ fundraising, and the Hartlepool Action Lab, a collaboration of many local groups tackling poverty in Hartlepool.

Micah Lammie
Advisory network member
Micah Lammie

I manage the Brixton Soup Kitchen (BSK), serving hot food, offering legal advice and giving out clothing parcels.

After a troubled childhood, I worked in the financial sector. I met Solomon Smith, founder of the Soup Kitchen, at a mutual friend’s wake, quit my job and now volunteer full-time.

Food is the facilitator. We bring the old Brixton and the new Brixton together – the free school meals kids and the private school kids. We organise back to school parties with slush puppies, hot dogs and a bouncy castle. Kids entitled to free school meals get the latest Adidas rucksacks, trainers, and brand new clothing. The stigma is removed because everyone wants to party. BSK’s bonfire night displays fills the streets, the walls, the windows… old and new Brixton together.

Everything starts somewhere. There’s been ups and downs but we’re helping people.

Paul Johnson
Trustee
Paul Johnson

I am Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and have previously worked in a variety of analytical roles within government.

I was Chief Economist and Director of Analytical Services at the Department for Education and Skills and later became Director of Public Services and Chief Micro-Economist at the Treasury.

I’m involved with Engage Britain because I recognise that whilst analytics and facts are vital for effective policymaking, a policy is only worthwhile if it addresses a real issue or challenge that the people of this county are dealing with.

Phil Fearnley
Board Adviser - Digital
Phil Fearnley photo

For over 25 years I have helped the likes of the BBC, HSBC and IP specialist CPA Global to navigate the digital revolution to create new and better ways to serve their customers.

With the BBC I led the launch of BBC iPlayer, and created the first mobile apps for News, Sport and Weather. We also created the first truly digital Olympics for London 2012. I have also built my own start-ups including Huge Entertainment where we devised and launched the world’s first mobile TV channel, ‘Pocket Comedy’, on all the UK’s mobile networks.

Digital technologies are enabling ever more meaningful ways for people to learn, understand, and engage with the world around them. I am excited to be part of Engage Britain and ride the wave of the current digital revolution to create a more inclusive, better connected, kinder Britain that serves all members of the community, across all generations.

Robert Visintainer
Advisory network member
Robert Visintainer

I’m project manager at Men’s Sheds Cymru – we support the men’s shed movement in Wales. Men’s Sheds offer a space to men, many of whom have found themselves with time on their hands, especially after retirement or through a change in their life circumstances.

 

I like to think that Men’s Sheds offer a ‘health by stealth’ approach to overcome mental and physical health problems. Men talk shoulder to shoulder not face to face, so they’ll have a more honest conversation if they’re working on something together. It’s how they worked in the mines and factories.

Individual sheds – which could be any building or space – are shaped and owned by their members. I’ve worked in building design and management before this, so I understand the strength of a place where you feel safe. I really believe that community and the voice of community is essential to making a difference. I think the power should be with the community and I hope Engage Britain agrees.

Sandip Shah
Trustee
Sandip Shah

I am a retired Partner at KPMG, having spent over 30 years at the firm. In this time, I have supported countless businesses across many sectors with their needs including acquisitions, disposals, financing and helped them to structure themselves.

 

I am deeply passionate about representation and equality in all aspects of modern life. As well as Engage Britain, I have been a Trustee of Chance for Childhood, the Ethnic Minority Foundation, the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations and Diversity East London.

I am part of Engage Britain because I believe in its mission and want to use my skills and experience to help make it as effective as it can be.

Sharon McAulay
Advisory network member
Sharon Mcaulay

I’m Project Manager at STAR Project – an award-winning community development organisation in Paisley. We’re a small grass roots charity that packs a big punch!

 

We are truly embedded in our community, ‘a well kent face’, and have often worked with generations of the same families.

Paisley has long-term issues that need long-term solutions, and cultural regeneration is one of the answers. We use creativity as a tool for change, tackling the impact of poverty and deprivation to build better connected and more resilient communities. With extensive experience working in areas of multiple deprivation and expertise around psychological safety and prevention, my interest lies in harnessing the therapeutic value of relationships and celebrating the unique human-ness we each possess.

I’m interested in Engage Britain to find people that are working on the same problems with different solutions, so we can share methods and models of working.

Trevor Rose
Advisory Network member
Trevor Rose

I run the Community Recording Studios at the edge of the St Ann’s estate in Nottingham. The studio has produced chart-topping stars, Radio One regulars and festival heroes – but its community work has changed lives.

I started out as a breakdancer, touring with Queen Latifah and Money Love before setting up my own operation in a former community centre. Kids kept showing up and soon I was working with drugs awareness projects, teaching video and production skills, encouraging aspirations and keeping the peace when trouble broke out.

We’ve worked with Children in Need, the MOBOs, Fame Academy, The Prince’s Trust and made stars of estate kids from St Ann’s. People come in, they have all sorts of problems, all sorts of ideas, all sorts of things that could go right or wrong. We work with everyone because, whatever their problems, everyone wants to achieve something.